When Equestrian Ambition Outweighs Common Sense – A Not-So-Cautionary Tale


What can we say about Henri? 

He’s a cheeky little monkey. A naughty, naughty boy. And NOT the messiah I thought him to be. (Gratuitous Pythonism, sorry.) I shall tell you about him in a moment.

But allow me to start part of the way through. The beginning was a long time ago.

I push the squeaky wheelbarrow full of feed buckets around the various paddocks and fields where I work and daydream and plan. I gaze covetously at the land across the river and wonder who owns them and if they will rent them to me.

I imagined coming to work in a rowing boat instead of getting up at 5.15 am to drive 90kms in a very thirsty Land Rover that drinks more of my money than even I manage.

Renting a dilapidated farm with 3 hectares would probably be less per month than my fuel costs, so I decided to visit the estate agents in the area. Being constantly in a race against the sun to get home to do my own six equines, I started with the agents I pass en route. This turned out to be most fortuitous.

She had nothing.

Absolutely sod all that fitted any of my criteria.


However, 3 hours later when I arrived home (thank you Gilets Jaunes) there was an email awaiting me from the agent informing me that not half an hour after I left a man popped in with a house for sale that fitted my criteria perfectly. 

Yes. For Sale. 

I can’t afford to buy a house! I am poor. I have a house. And finding a buyer could prove difficult as only a nutter would buy my house. I have been overzealous in the knocking down and knocking through department and a little less zealous in the putting it all back together department. 

Costs nothing to look though, does it? 

On opening the attachments, it looked to be the perfect property.

On opening the car door on arrival, it was not. I said no and went on my way.

Less than a week later, my phone ding-ding dinged at me just as I was leaving work. Several voicemail messages from an elderly French voice. Could I possibly help him back and bring-on 10 young horses? 

I returned his call and told him that although I would love to, I was struggling to manage 50 plus horses at work and 6 at home as it was. No way could I manage another 10. Where are you? And out of curiosity, who recommended me?

It was the bloke whose house I had just viewed!

The estate agent had given him my number and could we meet up for a chat as he had a proposition for me and wanted to show me something? OK. Why not? Been a while since I have done something inadvisable. What could go wrong?

I met him at a pub, where he seemed to tell me all about the perfect place for me to work with horses. Starting with his 10 and then when they were sold he would help me with clients’ horses and all I had to do was cut brambles. 


My French is quite good. But I suspected either I was missing something. Or he was. And I already have my perfect job. I just wanted to live closer to it.

We both got into my car and he directed me about 3kms to this:

Walking along behind him my mouth opened wider and wider and drool splashed around my ankles. He told me I can use all the facilities free along with 50 of the 120 hectares. When his horses are sold, I can use the rest. But he is getting on in years and can’t keep up with the brambles. Would I mind cutting them back?

NOOO! I would not mind in the slightest. I’ll start now.

Not wanting him to change his mind, I moved my horses over the very next week. I lived in the Landie. In January. But Henri found me a little caravan.

I had been there about a week when a woman in a little red car stopped in the lane and held her hand down on the horn for ages, so I went over to see if she needed help.

Oh my word!

She started yelling at me and demanded to know if the owner knew I was there. I put on my best affronted face and informed her I was there to work with Henri.

No Madame! I am not a squatter!

I settled in nicely. Made friends. Met a lovely lady who came over twice a week to help me exercise my horses. Posted a zillion updates on Facebook. Told the world. Shouted about my amazing new life, only a 15-minute drive from work. Started bringing my jumps over in the trailer.

And best of all started having lessons from my coach in my own arena; indoor, outdoor, take your pick.

What a fabulous place to use as a venue for hosting clinics.

I asked a friend of mine if his famous cousins would consider coming and doing a showjumping clinic? I more or less volunteered my boss on social media without her consent after getting drunk. And had positive feedback from a couple of barefoot trimmers when I suggested they do a demonstration.

I wondered if Albert Voorn, my coach’s coach, would be up for it. Always good to get an Olympian on board, I feel. And if you are going to get carried away, why not do it in style?

Henri was really turning out to be a character. Totally away with the fairies, but in a good way. For example, he admitted to me he was not the owner of the property but the caretaker.

He assured me the owner knew.

Then one Sunday, almost 2 months in, something happened. I had just returned from my house with the last of my jumps, unloaded them, and erected them into a grid ready for the next day’s training.

I spotted Bernie Buzzard circling with 2 other buzzards. Bernie enjoyed sitting on my trailer and surveying her queendom. Engrossed in watching them, hands on hips, leaning back, gazing into the sky, I was one with nature.


When communing with nature, you don’t always respond to obviously human demands for attention because they might be nothing to do with you. Or unwanted. Or unwarranted.

But this one had something about it that made me look about for the source of the yelling. Which I could not find. Oh! I see a head behind the bars of the yard. It must be the owner.

I marched towards him with an enormous smile on my face, ready to thank him for letting me stay here. Henri had already explained that there was also the possibility of using the 20+ stables, but I must talk with the owner before I use them, even though I had the keys already.


Oh! Balls! Stay calm. Hello. I am Ellie. Henri …

Henri? Oh … Henri. Ok … He is (sighs) adorable, but (sighs again) special.

This is an abbreviated version of what was actually said whilst head shaking and tutting.

Turned out the bloody owner had absolutely no idea I was on his land.

Red-car-lady was right! I was a squatter!

I explained I had only just, that day, finished moving all my stuff over. Could I not rent some of it?

No. Because he had just rented it out to another farmer and sold all the grass my horses had been merrily eating for the last 2 months as on-the-stalk hay.

Three days he gave me to pack up.

I thought that quite reasonable considering he did not know I was there until he pulled up and saw my decrepit and ancient Rice trailer in all its peeling paint-ness. He needed me off before the farmer arrived or he would be hard-pressed to make excuses.

My boss said I could move everything over to her yard. Then we did one of those A-frame hugs attempted by non-huggy people in a huggy situation.

I had as many lessons as I wanted when she was not gallivanting about Europe and in a tiny space of time, I achieved my Galop 7, my amateur licence, and the courage to go out there and get what I want.

Blaye Internationale here I come. Thank you, Henri.

Edit – Covid happened. ARSE.  Blaye 2022 it is then.


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